From Bern with love: the spy with a taste for the exquisite in early modern Istanbul
Cornelissen Aydemir, Marloes (2021) From Bern with love: the spy with a taste for the exquisite in early modern Istanbul. In: Zwierlein, Cornel, (ed.) The Power of the Dispersed: Early Modern Global Travelers Beyond Integration. Intersections, 77. Brill, Leiden. ISBN 978-90-04-41248-4 (Accepted/In Press)
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In 1734, five years after his departure from Bern in the retinue of the English Ambassador to Istanbul, Louis Monier was dismissed from his position as the Ambassador's personal secretary. When the Dutch Ambassador offered him protection – possibly to provoke his colleague – he was alternately dubbed favourite and confidant of the Dutch Ambassador, a gentleman of the horse, and a “spy for the Turks” by fellow foreigners in the Empire. Upon his return from a Venetian ball the following year, he was seized by a group of Ottomans, possibly upon the order of the English Ambassador or the Ottoman authorities. After his arrest he was deported to Livorno and, according to custom, the rather exquisite material possessions he left behind were recorded by the Dutch Embassy. How can these possessions, or in other words, the material culture of this diplomatic secretary or alleged unofficial agent give a voice to un(der)represented parties of early modern history? By trying to answer this question, this paper explores the relatively newly developed field of material culture of diplomacy through the use of diplomatic records, inventory records and other forms of private and official correspondence. It aims to give insight into the agency and the urban, religious and social lives of early modern European individuals who often had a (pseudo) diplomatic background. It turns out that these transnational or transimperial individuals' identities were rather fluid. The Dutch in the Ottoman Empire were gladly extending protection – even to people of ambiguous identity or profession, who were sometimes excluded from protection by other nations – in return for a small tax. Birthplace and religion were easily overlooked when a business opportunity or personal ties were involved. Ambassadorial Secretary or “Turkish spy” Louis Monier is an excellent example of such early modern individuals who easily adapted to their changing surroundings and circumstances.
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